Image credit: Peter Ankerstål.
Shanghai Shenhua are to be stripped of their 2003 Super League title, and 33 people, including two former Chinese football chiefs, have been banned for life from football, in China’s biggest crackdown on match fixing.
The Chinese Football Association’s disciplinary committee announced its decision on Monday.
Xie Yalong and Nan Yong, the two former heads of the Chinese soccer administrative center who have been jailed for taking bribes, were among the 58 people punished by the Chinese Football Association’s (CFA) discipline commission on Monday afternoon.
Shenhua and Tianjin Teda bore the brunt of the punishments. Both clubs were fined one million yuan and, far more painfully, docked six points from their current 2013 league score. Shangdong Luneng and Yanbian FC (which plays in China League One) were also disciplined.
Shenhua were found guilty of fixing a match against Shanxi Guoli in the 2003 season. In a Weibo poll, over 79 percent of respondents said they felt Shenhua and Teda were punished too lightly, fans pointed to a 2009 decision against Chengdu Blades and Guangzhou GPC which saw both teams relegated for match-fixing.
As well as Xie and Nan, four Chinese internationals – Shen Si, Qi Hong, Jiang Jin, and Li Ming – were all given lifetime bans, as was 2002 World Cup referee Lu Jun.
“These violations of CFA regulations include match-fixing, bribing giving and taking, and gambling,” said a CFA spokesman. “Some violations dated back to over 10 years ago.”
The CFA blamed “the lack of legal criteria, imperfect system and lax supervision and management” for the corruption that is rampant in Chinese football.
The announcement on punishments came just after Wei Di stepped down as chief of the CFA after a three-year tenure which saw the sport’s shameful past of match-fixing and bribery finally tackled.
The 58-year-old Wei was removed over poor results and a need to prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
During Wei’s tenure, the team missed out on the 2012 Olympics and failed to reach the 2014 World Cup after finishing third in a group topped by Iraq and Jordan.
While Chinese football is notorious for corruption and match fixing, recent months have seen numerous revelations that have cast doubt on the integrity of the sport worldwide. Europol identified at least 380 suspicious matches over a three year period, spread across as many as 15 different countries, including several in Europe.
Operation Veto found suspect World Cup qualifiers, suspect European Championship qualifiers, suspect Champions League games. It found 150 suspect matches at the international level, on multiple continents. It found 380 suspect matches in Europe overall. It found a suspect match involving Liverpool that was played at Anfield, arguably the most celebrated club and stadium in England.
An Asian syndicate, based in Singapore, is believed to be behind the majority of match fixing worldwide. Declan Hill, a Canadian journalist who has led a protracted campaign to publicise match fixing, identified one man in particular:
There are five words that if ignored mean that we will lose sport as surely as sport in Asia has been destroyed – leaving our industry, our passion, our gift to the next generation devastated.
These then, are the five words: Dan Tan must be arrested.
For those who may not know who is Dan Tan: European police and his former associated have claimed that he has fixed matches or his connections have fixed matches in a host of countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America, but also in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Finland, Greece, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, Switzerland, Serbia, Macedonia and most famously here in Italy.
This is not journalistic speculation. There have been excellent police investigations in some of these countries. Last month, another one of his former associates in Italy turned himself into the police and spoke about the gang’s activities.
Singaporean authorities have brushed off accusations of complicity or inaction in failing to prosecute Tan, claiming that the case against him lacks “concrete evidence” (this is bullshit). Hopefully prosecutors in Singapore will follow their Chinese counterparts’ lead.